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The Great Suburban Mushroom Hunt

 

morels mushrooms hunting“Hey Wookiee,” Randy hailed me from across the office, “I was thinking we might go mushroom hunting Friday after work. We’ll see if we can get Galen to come, too.”

“AWESOME! That would really boost my Mo-REL.”

Randy had just been mushroom hunting a few days before and bagged several tasty morels out at his old hunting grounds in the country. He’d been mushroom hunting since he was knee high to a grasshopper, as had a few other coworkers, but until about 3 years ago I didn’t know it was a thing.

Though I’d lived in Nebraska 20 years, I hadn’t really been tight with any old-school Nebraska natives or known the strange ways of the country folk until one day I overheard Randy and Dave whispering about the hunt in reverently excited tones (which would have sounded cooler with Irish/Amish accents).

“’Tis a choice day for the gathering.”
“Aye, the soil is ripe. Wilt thou be hunting on the morrow?”
“Aye. Just mine sack and me in mine special spot, then unto the Buggered Goat’s Bladder for a few pints.”
“Perhaps I too should adjoin, whereupon we canst examine t’other for ticks and such.”
“And such. Verily hast thou declaimed a plan of goodly repute. Forget not thine sack.”
“Aye. Indeed not.”

(Slightly paraphrased.)

The old boys know a thing or two about mushroom hunting. Morels, actually. Morels are not too distantly related to European truffles, the Holy Grail of fungi. Sometimes pigs are used to hunt the prized truffles.  Perhaps if the wild hogs overrunning Texas make their way up north to Nebraska and other shroom-happy states, the morels might be in trouble, though worth way more.  Yeah, the corn and soy crops, too.

Like truffles, morels are valuable and can fetch high prices, though not as much as truffles. I searched online and found several listings (made by stoners late at night) going up into the hundreds of dollars for 1 pound of morel goodness. Unlike truffles, morels generally have a shorter growth and harvest season which usually lasts only a few weeks in the spring after rain followed by heat followed by locusts. Or something.  Depending on species, truffles can often be found year round in different parts of Europe.

climbing train cars train hopping

Randy climbing between train cars

Before the hunt, I knew I had to work on my witty banter (stuff about loose morels, low morel, I’m a fun guy, etc). Friday afternoon came and Randy and I left work a little early for our hunting expedition on the edge of town. We parked our cars and wandered out past genteel suburban neighborhoods, crossing railroad tracks before finding ourselves in a secluded wooded area near a creek where Randy killed me and buried my body. No, he didn’t do that. We thought Galen had changed his mind when he didn’t show up right away or answer Randy’s phone call, but out of nowhere he appeared like Batman and/or the Grim Reaper joining us in our shroomy search.

The foliage was up to our knees in spots, making our search of the ground more difficult.  Paying careful attention to areas around dead trees, we gently moved the grass and plants out of the way, especially after I shook hands with stinging nettle.  Across the creek I spotted some fungus, but it was the wrong kind growing on a fallen tree and we weren’t going to cross the giant creek unless Randy wanted to lie down across it so we could walk over him (as I suggested), but again, it was the wrong sort of mushroom and we weren’t going to eat that type.  Or even lick it, apparently.  So we didn’t.

After searching the suburban-adjacent wilderness in futility for what must have been at least 10 minutes, the 3 of us gradually made our way back toward civilization.  When suddenly a train came along the tracks, cutting off our exit.  We waited some minutes until, to our dismay, we discovered the train was stopping.  It finally came to a screeching halt in front of us as if it had found its giant parking spot, while the engineer presumably went inside an invisible station to grab a Coke and have a pee.

fried mushrooms morels fish tail

My morel fry-up. Almost looks like a fish.

Acting fast, we climbed up between the train cars and over to the other side of the tracks.  Expecting the train to restart at any moment, we ambled quickly for 3 grown men and weren’t killed or yelled at by the conductor, since he was apparently still inside this imaginary station still having a pee and getting a Coke, throwing in a Butterfinger for good measure.

And that was our great suburban mushroom hunt.  We found no mushrooms, there might have been a wee bit of trespassing, Galen might have required a bandage for that scratch on his head, and we hopped the train like hobos, but it was fun.  Randy, feeling bad we didn’t find any mushrooms, kindly offered us some of the morels he’d found a few days before.  So, in the end, I still came home with a nice baggy of mushrooms and had a super fry-up.  They’re quite delicious and remind me a little of those tasty gluten steaks my vegetarian parents made over the years.  I look forward to the next hunt (and will keep my eye on the morel market since, dude, you can make a lot of money on them).

By the way, a few days after our hunt, word began spreading that just days before, a couple mushroom hunters in Nebraska had come across human remains while out foraging in the country.  I haven’t been able to find anything to substantiate this story, but I wonder if it was anywhere near where my friends hunt.  Hmm.  db

the secret word is suburban

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